Amanda Gomez has had several podium finishes since Desert Circuit started, but on Sunday of Desert Circuit 2, presented by Adequan®, she finally got her win. Aboard Charly-Ann, owned by Rising Star Equestrian, she sped to victory in Sunday’s $30,000 Marshall & Sterling 1.40m Open Classic.

“I’m so thrilled,” Gomez reflected on her win. “The mare has been fantastic over these two weeks. James Chawke and I have been going back and forth and I’ve been following him a lot in second last week. I was second to Skylar [Wireman] at the beginning of the week in the Welcome. It feels fantastic to finally have a win down here, especially in a competitive class like this; it just makes it even better.”

Amanda Gomez and Charly-Ann. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

James Chawke was still in the top ribbons, and early in the jump-off he had some thinking he would take the win again, as he had the week prior. This time around, he scored second with Nacara van Berkenbroeck Z, owned by Alison Locke. Mariano Maggi and Cassio Pleasure took third place.

The 13-year-old Holsteiner mare (L.B. Companiero x Favory AA) is still a newer ride for Gomez, who is a young professional working out of Rising Star Equestrian in Norco, CA.

“I acquired her about six months ago from a good friend,” Gomez said of Charly-Ann. “The mare has always been fantastic but we weren’t really sure what she had in her scope range. The more I jump her the more I find talent, so I’m really excited and I think she’s going to be a really serious horse for me in the near future.”

Amanda Gomez and Charly-Ann in their winning presentation, pictured with Susan Artes, Pam Gomez, and Chris Boyle. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Gomez knows the power of hard work, finding talent in horses where she can and developing them up to the highest levels. Finding horses like Charly-Ann inspires her for the future and assures the hard work she puts in on a daily basis.

“I’m just 20 years old so I’m grinding my way up,” she shared about her professional career, still at a young age. “I try to do everything the least expensive way possible and finding horses that way is definitely difficult so I’m extra grateful that I found this one. She’s really special to me so to have this win with her means a lot.”

The 1.40m and 1.35m classes have been extremely helpful for Gomez as she brings her horses to the desert to help them develop into higher-level competitors.

“[This class has] been a huge help for me,” Gomez said of the 1.40m Classic on Sundays. “Especially for a mare like I jumped today, she’s not quite ready for the solid 1.50m, so to have this class to jump Sunday is fantastic. It’s just one step down and a big confidence boost. It gives you an opportunity to develop these horses in the correct way and not push them too hard. My horses have really come around these two weeks thanks to classes like this.”

For her horses and herself, Gomez’s goals are lofty, but one day at a time, she’s proving she can accomplish them.

“I have big goals for myself; I think everybody does and everybody should. I have two competitive 1.40-1.45m horses right now and a couple 1.35m horses at home,” she explained. “This mare is a mare for the future for me, maybe a 1.50m horse that I can jump in the National grand prixs here soon. I’m just continuing to build off what I have now, most of mine are pretty young. Next generation and continue to build the string up. I’m so happy to be here and it’s a fabulous job they’ve done with this horse show.”

Mia James Masters 1.25m Amateur Jumper Classic

Mia James and Kartou Himself in their winning presentation, pictured with Rachel Long. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Mia James and her trusty partner Kartou Himself had a very successful weekend showing in the Amateur Jumpers, and they capped it off win a win in the Struck Apparel 1.25m Amateur Jumper Classic, also taking reserve championship honors in the division.

“He is coming 9 this year and I have had him since he was 3,” James said of the Dutch Warmblood gelding (F-One USA x Lancelot). “His first show here was in 2021 in Jumper 5, so I’ve brought him along up the ranks. He’s been a really fun project.”

Even though James is an amateur, she’s put in the hard work to get the sturdy amateur jumper she so badly wanted. But her favorite part has been, “the progress, and just his personality and getting to know him so well. I was probably the second person ever on his back and now I’m getting to do this kind of thing with him. Obviously I’m an amateur so I had to develop a really good amateur horse, and it’s taken a while to get that. But now he’s become a really good partner and he’s taking care of me and helping me out.”

Mia James and Kartou Himself. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Their partnership held strong as she bested a field of 23, the quickest of five double-clears.

“He’s been super quick all week; a few seconds faster than everyone else,” James said of the horse’s performance through the week leading up to the Classic. “So I didn’t think I had to take all the options, but the couple of inside options that were there just showed themselves. He was super forward and attentive so I just let him roll and keep going.”

Wins and beyond, James loves being a competitor at DIHP with all it has to offer in and outside the ring.

“I love the variety,” she shared. “I love getting to watch the big classes. I love seeing people from all over the country and Canada. We come down from Idaho and I grew up in the sport so I see people I’ve known forever.”

Show jumping resumes Wednesday, January 24, for Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, with the $10,000 1.35m Welcome Speed.

Zoe Wolf and Cassario 8 Prove their Partnership in 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic

Zoe Wolf and Cassario 8 in their winning presentation, pictured with Nora Meepi of Voltaire Design. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

Zoe Wolf has owned and competed Cassario 8 since she was 13, and even though he is leased by another rider currently, during Desert Circuit 2, she got to take the reins again and rode to a win in the Voltaire Design 3’6” Junior Hunter Classic.

“This is my first year showing him as an older [Junior Hunter],” Wolf said. “He’s actually leased out currently but the girl who’s leasing him will be here next week, so I was getting him in the ring again. He’s had a month or so off and he feels great. He feels just as good as he did when he was 8 years old. It’s so nice to have a horse I know so well and come out and have fun.”

Cassario 8, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, has competed in major hunter classes and has always been a top competitor in the Junior Hunters. Together they scored an 85 and 83.5 for a total of 168.5 and the win in the Classic. But Wolf has also recently begun a partnership with a new mount, Milagro. The horse won the WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in Wellington with John French aboard, and during Desert Circuit 2024 Wolf and the team behind her have big plans for their newest horse.

Zoe Wolf and Cassario 8. Photo by High Desert Sport Photo

“I took him to indoors and showed him last year at WEF. He’s incredible,” Wolf said of Milagro, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding. “He’s not like anything else. You sit on him and you feel like you’re riding the winner which is a great feeling. I was just trying to come out and have consistent rounds and get to know him a little better.”

While past seasons have been hunter focused for Wolf, this year she’s switching gears mostly to the jumpers, with some goals still in mind in the hunter and equitation rings.

“I’m definitely more jumper oriented this year,” she shared of her plans for 2024. “For Milagro we probably won’t see much more in the Junior Hunters; we’re going to focus him more on the derbies and the Spectacular at the end of Circuit. Right now the jumpers are having a light week in the Mediums and they’ll step back up to the Highs before the Young Rider trials, which is the goal for the circuit on them. We’ll play around in the equitation and qualify for medal finals. I’m super excited to be here. It looks amazing and it’s a great place to be.”

Hunters resume with professional divisions for Desert Circuit 3, presented by U.S. Bank, on Wednesday, January 24.